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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Newt Gingrich, on the rebuilding of Iraq:

We need to fundamentally reorganize our nonmilitary bureaucracies to be effective. I mean, part of the reason you don’t have an effective Iraqi bureaucracy is the American inability at the State Department, the Agency for International Development, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department to provide any level of systematic competence is, is almost zero.
Did he leave anyone out? Hmmm, let's see . . . oh, yeah. The Pentagon!

It was the Pentagon that elbowed State aside and assumed full responsibility for post-invasion Iraq, despite having failed to undertake the sort of pre-invasion planning necessary to confront the enormous task.

It was the Pentagon that made no plans to rebuild the Iraqi bureaucracy because Rumsfeld thought if you lopped off the head of the regime and replaced it with a pro-Western government, the Iraqi bureacracy would just keep on keeping on.

It was the Pentagon that disbanded the Iraqi Army, one of Iraq's stronger bureaucratic structures, despite the warnings from U.S. commanders on the ground.

And let's not forget that Gingrich was on Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board during the period in question and was one of the leading proponents of the Pentagon's approach.

Going around behind Gingrich to set the record straight could be a full-time job, but this particular blame-shifting canard needs to be confronted and knocked down hard.

For you, dear readers, I tried to watch the Sunday morning talk shows. But I must have blacked out when Newt Gingrich, on Meet the Press, said that we are now engaged in World War III and cited as evidence of that notion the terrorist wannabes arrested in Miami. I don't remember anything after that point. I know I have fallen down in the eternal battle against bamboozlement. I will only note that I had already endured Bill Kristol's unmitigated bamboozling of the Plame affair on Fox News Sunday. Surely that must count for something.

For the most part, the New York Times gets it right in its editorial today on Bush's (and Cheney's) obsession with expanding executive power:

To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause [of expanding executive power] behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.


Exactly so.

But I do want to flag one concession the NYT makes, incorrectly in my view, in the midst of its otherwise solid indictment of the Administration (emphasis added):

While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.


Well, actually, quite a number of people question the White House's determination to fight terrorism. An Administration determined to fight terrorism after 9/11 would not have invaded Iraq, would have devoted considerable effort and resources to securing the nation's ports, and would have worked to minimize the effects of a terrorist attack by improving disaster preparedness, which Katrina starkly showed was not done. That's just the short list.

I don't want to make too big a deal of this because, taking the editorial as a whole, I'm not sure the NYT actually believes that Bush's determination is unquestioned. Much of the editorial's argument underlines precisely why the White House's determination to fight terrorism is questionable at best.

On the other hand, to frame the issue without challenging the White House's anti-terror credentials concedes far too much and ignores the many reasons, too numerous to document here but with which everyone is now familiar, to doubt this Administration's credibility.

A tantalizing tidbit on the Jerry Lewis-Bill Lowery front:

The investigation has even reached into Lowery's private life. One of his two ex-wives, Melinda Morrin, has been interviewed twice by the FBI about her ex-husband's dealings, her attorney said last week.


Things can't get much bleaker than when the FBI starts questioning your ex-wife--about you.

Steve Clemons offers up a different take on the broader strategic objectives behind Israel's recent actions in Gaza and Lebanon:

The flamboyant, over the top reactions to attacks on Israel's military check points and the abduction of soldiers -- which I agree Israel must respond to -- seems to be part establishing "bona fides" by Olmert, but far more important, REMOVING from the table important policy options that the U.S. might have pursued.

Israel is constraining American foreign policy in amazing and troubling ways by its actions. And a former senior CIA official and another senior Marine who are well-versed in both Israeli and broad Middle East affairs, agreed that serious strategists in Israel are more concerned about America tilting towards new bargains in the region than they are either about the challenge from Hamas or Hezbollah or showing that Olmert knows how to pull the trigger.


Meanwhile, Hezbollah rockets reach ever deeper into Israel, Israeli air strikes for the first time target central Beirut, and the IDF re-enters northern Gaza.

A word from the other half:

Being from the "other side" politically, I am a Republican but not a 100% hardcore conservative. I often come to this website to find legitimate "left" thinking . . . I think your analysis of the Democrats celebrating too often and not being in there for the long fight is bang on. I just hope they don't listen to you.

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